The Benefits of Attending College Out of State

There are many factors that families need to consider when choosing where their child will attend college. Though all of these factors are important, a big one that comes up in conversation is location. The benefits of attending an in-state college are well known to Students, Parents and School Counselors alike; a more familiar environment during a time of a big life change, more affordable in-state tuition, and the ability to be closer to home. As a School Counselor myself, in many of my conversations with families I find myself highlighting the benefits of staying in state to attend college, for these reasons and more. 

However, all options should be considered and there are several reasons why a family may decide that their child going to college out of state is a good fit. Here are a few potential benefits:

  • Expanded opportunities: Attending college out of state can expose students to a wider range of educational institutions, programs, and opportunities. It allows them to explore new perspectives, meet diverse groups of people, and experience different cultures. Of course they will meet different people if they stay in state for their college education, but they will be able to meet people that they would never come across otherwise. This exposure can broaden their horizons and enhance their personal and intellectual growth. 
  • Lesser known financial incentives: As colleges seek to build a balanced incoming freshman class each year, they often look to enrolling students from out of state to create the atmosphere of diversity mentioned in the previous paragraph. This results in colleges offering generous merit or need based aid to out of state students. Though the list price of an out of state college may seem financially prohibitive at a glance, in demand students from different regions may be able to attend at an affordable price- perhaps even more affordable than in state colleges local to them. 
  • Independence and personal growth: Going to college out of state often requires students to navigate unfamiliar environments, manage their finances, and make decisions independently. This experience can foster personal growth, self-reliance, and the development of essential life skills. It encourages them to step out of their comfort zones and become more adaptable and resilient. Any student that attended college out of state can tell you that the experience was paramount to them gaining valuable skills for becoming an adult. Being thrust into such unfamiliarity on their own, they have no choice but to grow up quickly!
  • Specialized programs: Some students may have specific academic or career goals that are better served by attending a college or university in another state. They may find institutions that offer highly regarded programs, specialized courses, or research opportunities that align with their interests and aspirations. Pursuing these unique opportunities can provide a competitive edge in their chosen field. A concrete example would be the student who wishes to pursue Marine Biology as a major, but lives in the land-locked midwest. There are great programs for such a major in other states that are on the coast (Maine and Florida are examples) due to the necessity of college students in this major needing hands-on experience in the sea. 
  • Networking and connections: College is not just about academics; it’s also a time for building networks and connections that can be valuable in the future. Attending college out of state exposes students to a new social and professional environment, allowing them to make connections with peers, professors, and professionals in their field of interest. These relationships can open doors to internships, job opportunities, and collaborations. We live in a world where it’s easy to stay connected regardless of what state you live in, so having a network of people in different states has the potential to open up opportunities in more than one location for the student when they are looking to plant roots and settle down into a career. 
  • Personal exploration: Going to college out of state can provide a fresh start and a chance for personal exploration. Students have the opportunity to define themselves outside the context of their hometown or family expectations. They can discover new interests, hobbies, and passions, and create their own identity. This freedom can lead to personal growth and self-discovery.

It’s important to note that the decision to send a child to college out of state should be made on an individual basis, considering factors such as the student’s preferences, financial considerations, and family dynamics. Each family should carefully weigh the potential benefits and challenges before making a decision. If after research and conversation your family decides that going to college is the right fit for your child, they can look forward to a unique experience with many opportunities for growth. 

Elizabeth Lough is a high school guidance counselor with North Middlesex Regional School District in Massachusetts and advisor with My College Planning Team, based in the Chicago area. . Please contact her at: